34 Letters Filed In Protest Of Wayne National Forest Land Lease

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There are now 34 letters on file with the federal Bureau of Land Management protesting the lease of land for oil and natural gas drilling in the Wayne National Forest.

Athens City Council, Athens County Commissioners, Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl and Ohio University are among those who have submitted letters of protest.

Some of the letters challenge the legality of the leasing to begin Dec. 7, saying the bureau relied on an outdated environmental impact statement that does not mention the hydraulic fracturing drilling technique, also known as fracking.

About 3,300 acres of the Wayne, with parcels in Athens and surrounding counties, will be part of the auction and sale.

A letter (full document available below) from the Burr Oak Regional Water District President Roger McCauley says, "We are extremely concerned about the potential for contamination to the aquifer that the BORWD is now totally dependent on for its raw water supply if oil and gas drilling is permitted."

The water district supplies water to 25,000 households, businesses and school districts in Athens, Hocking, Perry and Morgan Counties.

The letter says the district recently converted its raw water supply from surface to groundwater by developing a well-field near the Hocking River and constructing a groundwater treatment facility.

McCauley says, "The BORWD believes there would be serious and catastrophic health risk to the people and communities that depend on this water source if contamination occurs."

The fracking process uses chemical-laced water to break deep shale and release gas.

Other letters included citizens from Athens, Perry and Gallia counties opposing the sale because of their concerns about possible fracking and the environmental impacts.

All the letters are posted online on the Bureau of Land Management's website.